Firefox 57, flipping fast!

Firefox 57: Flipping fast!

I have been a fan of Firefox for a long time and heck, I’ve given plenty of time to Mozilla through the Mozilla Festival over the years. I would regularly use Firefox & Chrome back to back on my Ubuntu laptop, but only firefox on my server (its been the default for Ubuntu for years). Tended to use Chrome for Google type operations like Docs, Spreadsheet, Mindmup, etc. But I started using the Firefox beta after the word got passed around that version 57 (Quantium) was a total rewrite.

Once I tried it, I was blown away! Tweeting…

I was so impressed that it picked up my profile, passwords, sync, everything; even when running it from a totally different location. It meant I could just run it and use it – and why not? Its that fast and smooth. There were some addons/extentions which didnt work but most of them I uninstalled when I switch Firefox 53 to multi-threaded mode, so I was already running it pretty lean.

It was all good…as I could switch to old firefox easily enough by just loading that one no problem, not that I did.

It was during Mozfest time, when I got a email asking if it would be ok for Mozilla to use my tweet in a special New York Times double page spread they were planning on launch day. Of course I said sure thinking not much more about it except remembering the moment when Firefox 1.0 launched with the name of all the backers.

Then today, I saw while in Maderia…

It had slipped my mind this was actually going to happen and frankly was quite proud to be one of only seven quoted. Its also not like it was misquoted! I’m acutally writing this blog from my hotel room on Firefox 57 right now. Its still not default yet (firefox 56 currently is), but expecting it will be very soon once Ubuntu update the distro.

Stellar work Mozilla and I love the catchy tagline – Fast for good…

firefox 57 quantum

Firefox OS on a new phone

Firefox OS upgrade

One of the big things which came out of the Mozilla Festival was the brand new Firefox phone, the flame… I heard about it but to own a version was frankly kind of exciting. I believe they gave out about 500 to the people who attended the festival. You also had to be there early on Sunday morning if you wanted one.

Unlike the previous version which was made by Geekphone and was technically a developer edition, this one was closer to 4.75 inches. The build quality had also been upped from the previous one.  When in my pocket, it feels very much like my Nexus 5 but a little less polished. A little frustrating to move the power button to the top instead of the right hand side to match the Nexus 5.

Firefox phones

When you open up the phones back cover (because you can do that, the novelty!) you find not only a micro SD card slot but also 2 sim slots! 2 Sims in Europe, what on earth? How great is that? I can finally buy a crappy sim from another country and still use my number for everything else. I currently have my work sim and a spare pay as you go sim in place. Another thing which surprised me about the phone also was the NFC support. Now that was something I was not expecting at all. Haven’t tested to see if the Bluetooth is 4.0 LE (looks like it maybe 3.0) or not but everything else looks good. It feels like last years chipset, not quite but comparable to my HTC 1X.

Enough about the hardware how does it work? Well I have to say its not bad. Compared to the previous one, its far more quicker and snappy. Its was pretty much what you experienced on the previous phone but quicker and more responsive. I say it was… because recently I got an upgrade pushed through to the next version of Firefox OS. Now its zippy and looks quite a bit different from what Android, iOS and Windows phone are doing.

Firefox OS upgrade

Now the icons are very big and super colourful. To be honest although Iike it, I would reduce the size if it was my only phone. People like Aral will hate the setup process because there are some gotcha’s which still disappoint, but as a whole Mozilla have listened to the critical feedback and tried to improve the user experience a lot.

The biggest problem I find with Firefox OS is the lack of apps. Its frustrating as it should make grabbing parts of websites or services easy (or maybe I’m missing something).  Don’t get me wrong the marketplace has much more that it use to have but its no where near even the Microsoft app store.

That is the one thing holding back Firefox OS. I do believe the web as a platform for development is a good one but the APIs are not there yet. For example I looked at the Web NFC API spec and found this. I’d love to write something to take advantage of it but its still not there for serious use.

I did notice that some of the things like Ubuntu unity webapp stuff does seem to work with the phone too. So I assume it got supported by the W3C? This brings me a bit of joy, because I can write simple stuff which will have utility across Ubuntu and Firefox phone. My hope is since I have Firefox installed on my Android, some of those features will also happen on Android.

As a whole, I like the Firefox phone, it reminds me how important it is to be free of the clutches of the big 5 stacks who hoover up data for their own means and lock you in forever. Firefox OS can be pretty much run like a feature phone if required but there is the ability to sync and have accounts if you so wish. If the flame really is meant to be a 100 dollar phone, its not value for money. I would happily have paid about that for it, as a 2nd phone. Looking forward to the next update… Good work Mozilla.

I was a space wrangler for Mozilla Festival 2014

MozFest_26Oct_144

The Mozilla festival is something I’ve had the pleasure of attending almost every single year except last year for personal reasons. The festival always feels like something between a conference, unconference and a festival.

As most of you know, myself, Jon and Jasmine were Space wranglers for the Mozilla Festival. This meant we were given a big space to curate a schedule and program of workshops around the theme of Physical.

Right from the get go, we didn’t want it to be the 3D printed, Arduino fest of previous years. We carved together our thoughts into a call and put it on Lanyrd. The physical track became the open web with things track and took on a form asking questions of the things we connect to the web. I liked to describe it to others as whats the reason and existence of the thing? So a more critical look at Internet of things without getting negative.

Mozfest 2014

Being a space wrangler included regular video calls, lots of collaboration in google doc, tons of etherpadding and narrowing down the open public call for workshops down to something more manageable. I can’t state how much work this really is, not only do you have go through them all and form some kind of schedule in your minds. But you also need to think about ones which don’t quite make the cut and discuss how to make it better or if combing sessions would work better? Its a lot of work and to be fair I wasn’t too sure how things were going to pan out.

Myself, Jon and Jasmine didn’t just want to have the sessions/workshops. We needed somewhere to show things off and being the creative people we are, wanted to do something a little different. Originally we thought about some kind of bar or cafe where people can feel comfortable and play with things in their own time. And somewhere along the line, it became the ethical dilemma cafe.

Mozfest 2014

Ethical dilemma cafe

The ethical dilemma cafe, did include a space to show physical work in action and/or finished. Plus it included a physical dilemma of what people experience online all the time without really thinking. Having to decide between giving up data in  return for smoothies and popcorn.

Mozfest 2014

Give up data? You ask? Well we wanted to include a number of things/systems stealing/taking liberties with you’re data. We had planned a jukebox which would encourage you to feed it more personal data. It was going to be like a film I watched recently called 13 sins, lure you in with the small harmless data requests then request more and more till you felt slightly violated.

Instead in the lead up to Mozfest, we ended up with something even more interesting and more instant. Libby, Andrew and Jasmine created a system which sniffs the radio waves (802.11 space) around discretely positioned  picture frames around the space. They also had a cameras to take pictures of people when there was movement.

Mozfest 2014

The results were shown on a screen and more interestingly printed out on a dot matrix printer like a receipt of your time in the cafe space. The receipts came thick and fast as lots of people came flooding in with the promise of iot, smoothies and popcorn. We decided to hang some of them up, seemed fitting as we were airing peoples data in public.

Mozfest 2014

Lastly Matt included a conversation recording system. Interestingly people didn’t really notice the microphones positioned around the space and were surprised when they heard their voices played back randomly.

Mozfest 2014

We never quite got the rest of the concept up and running till Saturday afternoon, but that included terms and conditions for entering the cafe (just like the end user license agreements people never read), a clear line for the entrance and a web connecting the things together. Once those were in place and things got more interesting.

Mozfest 2014

Some wrote “Popcorn and Juice with strings” and they were right. Tempting people with what they could have if they just agree to the conditions and step over the line was kind of fun. When pointing out the agreement, most people will stop have a read and then shrug their shoulders and cross the line. However some people would read it and actively turn 180 degrees and walk away. Some would hover around the line and look at the fresh popcorn and smoothies, wondering if it was worth it?

Mozfest 2014

The ethical dilemma cafe served its purpose as many of the public caught on to the fact of free comes with strings. Positioning the popcorn and smoothie maker in direct view of the entrance, had the desired effect of people wondering straight pass the signs and taking popcorn.

Besides the dilemmas, there was also some live making, the physical playlist machine and penguin books Steven fry project (myfry).

Mozfest 2014

The sessions/workshops

I didn’t get a chance to go to many of the workshops unfortunately… The cafe was opposite the physical area on the mezzanine level while the rest of the physical sat on level 1 with mobile along side. Jon took the actual subtracks wrangling while myself and Jasmine positioned ourselves in the cafe. We had 3 subtracks within the open web with things track.

Mozfest 2014

Once the furniture was rearranged in the cafe and workshop spaces, it all worked out great. I did get to show the Perceptive Radio at the Science Fair on the Friday, Dj on the Saturday night and attend a couple of workshops around the ethics of data and iot.

Mozfest 2014

I do wish I had gone to more sessions and workshops but Mozfest was full of ideas people learning and sharing all over the place. One of the best examples was Stuart Nolan talking about the physicality of things (and entertaining people and himself in the cafe – Thanks for that Stuart!) and the security expert Babak  who showed people the skill and (crack like) addictive nature of lock picking. So amazing was his session that hours and hours afterwards people were lock picking everywhere.

Mozfest 2014

I actually stopped a lady and asked her how she was able to teach somebody else about lock picking. She replied, saying she picked it up from Babak and just found it fascinating so shared it on. The sharing on went on and on, that heck even at the ending/demo party people were still picking locks!

Mozfest 2014

The Mozilla festival was stressful and I had to be careful not to get too stressed about it but now I’ve done it and learned from it, I think I could do it again next year with less stress and even more impact.

MozFest_26Oct_391

Massive thanks to the Mozilla Festival crew, and I’m sorry to Sarah, Misty and Michelle who put up with our crazy asks (What did they think when we asked for rope, padlocks and popcorn machines?) Their energy and positivity was crazy good. Almost no matter what the ask, they were ready. It was amazing to sit and think about what was achieved on the train home on Monday night. Big thanks to all the other space wranglers, people who stepped in and helped out on the days (Spencer, Natasha, etc), people helped get our kit to Ravensbourne (Elizabeth), those who helped with the ethical dilemmas (Libby, Jasmine, Andrew, Matt, etc). And of course Jon, who is amazing and kept me going with his insane ideas and drive to keep on going…

MozFest_26Oct_259

The combination of data ethics and internet of things was good but I think we only just scratched the surface. Look out next year, there maybe a lot more to come…! Oh and thanks for the Firefox phone, I’m actively using it as my work phone at the moment, look forward to developing for it soon.

Firefox phones

OkCupid protest for equal marrage rights…

Okcupid protest for equal gay rights

Good on OkCupid! Text reads…

Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.

Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.

Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.

If you want to keep using Firefox, the link at the bottom will take you through to the site.

However, we urge you to consider different software for accessing OkCupid:

Shining a light on your data

COFFEE

Theres a few projects which come along and get me excited… One which got me recently was Mozilla lightbeam.

Lightbeam is a Firefox add-on that uses interactive visualizations to show you the first and third party sites you interact with on the Web. As you browse, Lightbeam reveals the full depth of the Web today, including parts that are not transparent to the average user.

Fascinating stuff… Sounds very familiar to something were doing in BBC R&D (soon to be blogged and I talked about at Oggcamp13). Wonder if Mozilla would be interested in working together? Maybe I missed the chance, when I didn’t go to Mozilla Fest 2013?

Or if not maybe the Ford Foundation would be a good partner?

Ford Foundation focuses on building outreach campaigns to help people understand online data tracking — both the benefits and the issues

Don’t worry I won’t spoil it for you, but you can imagine what were thinking…

A new year and a new laptop

Dell XPS 1210 laptop

I was tempted to do some mac fanboy mac fanboy unboxing ceremany for my new Dell XPS 1210 but decided that would be just – too sad! So it came as I finally spec'ed out with
Dell, and actually ahead of the 7 business day delivery. Being delivered on a Friday means I'm obviously all night copying files from my old laptop to the new one. I'm almost pretty much done now except Firefox which doesn't seem to work correctly when I copy it over from the old machine. Thunderbird and even Sunbird worked but not Firefox, odd eh? (yes I did try Mozbackup)

The new Laptop is beautiful and seriously looks like my Toshiba from the front (promise to take pictures once I sort out Firefox). I have started putting things on it which I wouldnt dare on my older machine. Touchstone, Microsoft virtual desktops, VM Ware and even Second life. The Dell just seems to run everything smoothly without a hitch. On the downside I spent 2 hours removing all the Dell crap before doing anything constructive. The battery life seems to last 6 hours with wireless, bluetooth and with use.
It does stick out the back but honestly I couldn't careless. When I'm sitting on the train or airplane with my extended battery and your searching for power after 3 hours, I'll be sure to remind you about the battery sticking out. Other things I love about the Dell right out of the box. The shinny widescreen screen is stunning, I've enabled Cleartype which needs some tweaking. The built in Wireless finder is a great idea for wifi searching.The keyboard takes some getting use to mainly because of the Toshiba I've
been using since when-ever.

Next day

So I finally got Firefox across using another utility called BackupFox which also does Thunderbird. I'm pretty much done with setting up my laptop now. I even installed Ubuntu Linux via VMWare. I don't know about Microsoft's Virtual machine client but VMWare runs Linux bloody fast on this laptop. So fast I might not even bother installing it on the disc at all. I guess this is what some of those Mac users were talking about with parallels over bootcamp. I'm also using Microsoft's Virtual Desktops extension which acts like Linux workspaces, so I easily go between Linux and Windows with a quick 2 finger tap. Although I have to say that the virtual desktops is a little buggy with badly written applications. This does however beg the question about what I should do with the Toshiba? Now the Dell runs Linux as smoothly as it does.

dell and toshiba next to each other

I've put up a load of shots of the new laptop on Flickr using the tag dell. Including this one which puts my old toshiba next to the new dell. Weird how they look so a like from the back.

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Firefox 2.0 out now, go get it now

Firefox 2.0 start page

Just updated my Firefox from RC2 to the full 2.0 version. I'm very impressed so far… Everything seems to work as expected and most of my extensions have updated without a problem. Now's a good time to point to the fact that the Mozilla team are asking for ideas on what they should do with version 3.0 and beyond of Firefox. I personally would like to see more Microformat support and real offline reading. Identity, web feed handling, security and privicy occupy the next few slots for me. How about you?

Oh did I forget to mention IE 7 also came out a few days ago? Well don't forget you can download that from ie7.com.

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SVG support in IE 7.2?

Don't know how I missed this in my aggregator but…

Microsoft publicly stated IE will have core engine support for SVG in IE7.x (most likely 7.2)

Honestly, I like to think this will happen, but I got a feeling there will be a clause. Something like support for SVG only works when using a XAML wrapper. Or you will need to enable it in the preferences somewhere.

But then worst that what I just wrote, it seems Microsofts Chris Wilson is stating that the above claim is bogus.

Actually, I did not state that IE7.X will have SVG support. I did say that I think SVG is gaining momentum as part of the interoperable web standards platform, and as such I expect we will add support for it in the future.

As for “IE7.2″ – I have not heard anyone inside or outside Microsoft say that, certainly not me. It’s a myth.

On the positive side, if Microsoft did some how suprise us all with SVG support, they would be joining the 2D vector graphics party. Firefox had SVG support ages ago now, Opera 9 just launched with even better SVG support and Safari Dev, Konqueror, Seamonkey, Camino and Amaya all have different levels of support for SVG.

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Google Using SVG

A few days ago Google released a series of statistics on the way in which HTML (and a few other things, such as HTTP and scripting) is used in the wild, wild Web. As in any good statistics report they have accompanying graphical charts. The interesting aspect in this instance is that those charts are available only in SVG.

You will need a recent version of either Firefox, Opera, an SVG-enabled Safari build or Konqueror to see them, apparently due to minor markup issues that prevent IE and/or ASV from working. It certainly is interesting to see a major web site such as Google use SVG for live Web content. SVG support moving away from plugins and into browsers does appear to have the effect of helping it edge its way into the mainstream.

I thought about this the other day when looking through the fantastic series of Google Statistics. Good to see SVG used by a huge company like Google. I mean it makes sense to put the graphs in SVG format, but its a calculated risk on Googles part. And looks to have paid off, because I've not seen many people make a fuss about not seeing the graphs. Actually looking around the web svg is really starting to become a reality for general web use. It reminds me to check out the Canvas element and HTML 5 which were both mentioned at the last geekdinner with Dave Shea.

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Firefox 1.5 now out but with limited SVG support

Firefox 1.5 released

Firefox 1.5 is released, hooray! And its the same as Firefox 1.5 RC3 which I've been using for a while now, hooray again… But not with full support for SVG 1.1 Full, Tiny or Basic profiles. This is a crying shame but still marks another step forward for SVG on the desktop. The full version which supports SVG is still in development and should be available in Firefox 3 according to SVG news. At least SVG is doing much better in the mobile space, almost 100 phones and counting.

If you want to see whats possible with Firefox 1.5 and SVG, do check out the Canvas painter demos which are poping up everywhere. Vladimir has a link to the best ones.

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